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The New Arab Staff

Saudi Arabia, Qatar close to agreeing US-brokered deal: reports

The reports follow meetings between Kushner and Saudi and Qatari officials [Getty]

Date of publication: 3 December, 2020

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Washington hopes to start a process in ending the three-year Gulf crisis during Donald Trump's final weeks in office.
Rivals Saudi Arabia and Qatar are inching closer to end a three-year rift that has seen Doha blockaded by land, sea and air by a number of Gulf states, Al-Jazeera reported on Wednesday.

The two countries are reportedly close to an agreement to mend ties after a visit by Jared Kushner, son-in-law and senior adviser to outgoing President Donald Trump.

Initial reports indicate Riyadh and Doha could soon reach a preliminary agreement to end the dispute, with Saudi Arabia allowing Qatari airliners to once again transfer through its airspace.

That easing of travel restrictions levelled against Qatar serves to reinforce the Trump adminisration's so-called "maximum pressure" campaign against Iran, The New York Times reports.

Since the beginning of the embargo in June 2017, state airline Qatar Airways has been forced to pay an estimated $100 million in fees to Tehran in order to fly through Iranian airspace.

It is unclear whether a preliminary agreement to ease the travel embargo will involve the UAE or other parties to the blockade.

Kushner's latest visit to the region has included stops in Riyadh and Doha but not in Abu Dhabi, widely seen as taking a harder stance against Qatar.
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The embargo, which also involves Bahrain and Egypt, is aimed at punishing Doha over its alleged support of extremist groups, a claim strongly denied by Qatar.

Bahrain, Egypt and the UAE will not be involved in any preliminary agreement with Qatar, Bloomberg reported this week.

But any rapprochement with Saudi Arabia could also include pledges to open land borders and to end an information war between the two Gulf states, according to Bloomberg.

The three Gulf states and Egypt have previously issued a list of demands to end the blockade, including Qatar shuttering state news network Al-Jazeera and abandoning ties with groups including the Muslim Brotherhood.

Economic and diplomatic relations between Doha and Tehran are also on the list of grievances against Qatar. 

Despite sharing the Gulf alliance's emnity with Iran, the Trump administration has sought to mend the rift with Qatar - an ally that hosts a US military base and has played a key role in mediating Afghan peace talks.

Fears that the incoming Biden administration will take a more considered approach in handling Iran have motivated Saudi Arabia to mend ties with Qatar, Bloomberg reported.

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